Before reading an analysis of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, one should first become familiar with the topic of textual criticism. Until the reader has some understanding of textual criticism, a discussion of Greek New Testaments may be of little value.
In short, the original New Testament manuscripts written by the hand of Paul or Luke or Matthew no longer exist. We have copies (full and partial) of these manuscripts ranging over a long period of time and a wide geography. As with any effort at copying, sometimes the copyist will make mistakes. If the mistakes are not recognized and corrected, they will be reproduced in the next generation of copies.
Some translators believe that one should simply accept the reading that occurs the most often in the manuscripts. They advocate for the Majority Text. Others think that the Greek text that is the basis of the King James Version is the best to follow. These advocate the “received text” or, in Latin, the Textus Receptus. Finally, most scholars today prefer the eclectic text, such as represented by the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. This is a text that has been reconstructed by careful study of all available manuscripts using textual criticism.
Textual criticism is the art and science of comparing all the places where the copies differ and determining what the original wording must have been—the wording that can best explain all the differences.
While the thought of “mistakes” in the text of the Bible and “reconstructing” the original wording may sound frightening to some believers, we should note that there are relatively few instances where the exact wording is unclear, and, of these instances, there is only a tiny minority where the actual meaning is affected. In no instance is any major doctrine affected. Most of the differences are something like the following:
Reading 1: Jesus got into the boat.
Reading 2: Jesus got into a boat.
Reading 3: The Lord Jesus got into the boat.
The Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament is an eclectic text edited by the German biblical scholar Eberhard Nestle (1851—1913) and further updated by German scholar Kurt Aland (1915—1994). The official title is Novum Testamentum Graece, which is Latin for “New Testament in Greek.” Having been regularly updated by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research and published by the German Bible Society, the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament is currently in its 28th edition. It is often referred to as the NA28.
The Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament is the Greek text often preferred by Bible scholars and researchers because of the extensive notes and cross references, including reasons a particular reading was chosen over an alternative reading. (This is known as the critical apparatus or the textual apparatus.) The NA28 runs about 1,000 pages.
The Greek text used in the NA28 is identical to that used in the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, which is another popular Greek New Testament.